Friday, April 2


I hated fifth grade.

After earning high test scores, I was accepted into the Gifted and Talented Education program. In my little egocentric 9-year-old world, I felt like a million bucks--neither of my older brothers had been accepted or any of my friends. I felt special. I felt like being smart was my talent and now I had proof! I was certainly going to gain a lot from this experience even if it meant going to another school.

Not once was I worried about feeling stupid in a class full of super smart kids or feeling like a nerd at this new school knowing that the rest of the normal kids knew we were the "GATE Geeks." At recess watching hundreds of other children playing dodgeball and Chinese jumprope and four-square, I didn't realize how lonely not only being the new kid but the smart new kid would be. Not once did I think about missing my friends that I would leave at Crestmont Elementary. Or the amazing teachers I had loved so much. I didn't think about how lame it would be to NOT learn normal subjects like math, science, and reading, but to spend nearly all day every day learning about stupid spaceships and NASA.

I felt all those things.

I came home from school crying many days begging my parents to let me go back to Crestmont. I remember one day in particular crying on the stairs by the front door once again trying to negotiate with my mom. She held me and let me cry. She didn't try and stop my tears nor did she say silly things like, "It will get better" or, "It's not as hard as you think," or even, "Let's focus on the good stuff." She didn't offer to see what she could do about transferring schools or doing anything else I had wanted her to do. All I remember her saying as she held me is this: You committed to going to GATE so let's stick it out for this year. At the end of the year you can make the decision on whether to continue or go back to Crestmont.

I should've hated her for that, especially because waiting til the end of the school year for a fifth grader is like licking to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie pop. But her calming voice, her embrace, and her love comforted me for the moment. She did all she could the remainder of the year to help ease the pain I felt. She went on class field trips, she volunteered herself to create and head up a huge musical production that only our class performed for the rest of the school (which in turn made me one of the most popular girls in my class because, who wouldn't love my mom?), she sent me to school with love notes in my lunchbox and made 5th grade much more manageable.

I didn't recognize all the lessons I learned that year from her actions until 20 years later. It finally hit me in all its profoundness a few days after I made the decision to get a divorce. The messages I received from friends and family who had heard of my decision were echos of what my mom gave her 10-year old daughter that day on the stairway. Nobody took away from the pain I was feeling. No one tried to protect me from it, though many wished they could. But they made it much more manageable with their open arms and unconditional love. It was surprisingly reassuring to receive validation that this was going to be hard. Maybe because I knew what a great support system I had--that I knew I wouldn't be alone. People immediately stepped in with notes and plates of cookies and visits and phone calls and text messages. They listened and they let me cry. Many even cried with me.

It certainly is ironic that I would recall a lesson of learning stick-to-it-iveness at a time when I was ending something, moreover something sacred like a marriage. I had felt so guilty about even considering divorce that I tried to avoid all talk of it. I had a very spiritual experience a few days before I made the decision to get divorced wherein I learned that I indeed had given my marriage everything I had. There were a lot of times I came home crying not knowing what to do but because of the character my mom helped me develop, I stuck to it, trying everything I knew how to make it more manageable. But it was the end of the year and it was time for me to make a decision.

I am beyond grateful for the many lessons I have learned from both my marriage and my divorce. I am even more grateful for earthly parents who taught me the harder lessons--the ones that would require a lot more pain and suffering but would bring the most joy in the end.


Rin said...

Kell bell! Good post! I didn't know anything about your 5th grade year...I had a similar 5th grade year in that I was in a public school, but it was a Harvard Pilot program, and man were we pushed. I would stress out on a nightly basis involving tears, tearing up homework and throwing books against my wall. It was awful, but at the same time the most interesting year in school I've had to date.

Anywho, I love your insight and I love you...I MISSSSSSSSSSSS YOU!!!!!!!

TheBaumanns said...

Well first of all, way to make me cry. That was beautifully-said, Kelly! You're such a strong, inspiring person and I love you & look up to you more than you know!

Rosie Moncrief said...

I hope you don't if I blog stalk you from now on!

Katy and Jerome Checketts said...

Kelly I really needed this. Thank you so much! I love you and we really need to get together. You are an incredibly strong person! I fully admire you!

Amy said...

You are such an inspiration... I hope you know that. There is so much strength in you. You are awesome!

PS Glad your back blogging again :)

Ashleigh said...

Hi Kelly . . . you're back! I remember those days when you left Crestmont for the Gate Geeks. I know I was young then, but your Mom (and your family) come up in my families' memories so often and had such an impact on me. Your Mom was(is) awesome!

This was touching, thanks for sharing.